Category archive: Iowa State Cyclones
Some updates after Sunday's conference tournament games:
• Delaware (Colonial) and Green Bay (Horizon) won their respective tournament championship games, removing any bid-stealing possibilities on the final day of conference tournaments.
• Creighton (Missouri Valley), Liberty (Big South) and Sacred Heart (Northeast) also held their spots in the field with tournament titles.
• Kentucky holds onto the final No. 2 seed. The Wildcats had more quality wins (11) than Miami (five) or Delaware (five), had a better SOS than both, and won a regular-season title in the second-rated conference.
• Texas remains the last team in. The Longhorns are no slam dunk, but the decision came down to fact they have more wins against other teams under at-large consideration (seven) than North Carolina (three), Michigan (four), Southern California (four), James Madison (one), Oklahoma State (five) and Kansas (six). Of course, there a number of other factors to consider, but this was the deciding measurement. Victories over Michigan State, California and Virginia were a collection of nonconference wins none of the other teams have.
LAST FOUR IN
FIRST FOUR OUT
NEXT FOUR OUT
Big East (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Sun Belt (2)
Some updates after Saturday's conference tournament games:
• Eastern Michigan (MAC), Hampton (MEAC), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Navy (Patriot), Idaho State (Big Sky), San Diego State (MWC), Albany (America East), Prairie View (SWAC), UTEP (C-USA), Fresno State (WAC), Stanford (Pac-12) and Baylor (Big 12) all earned automatic NCAA bids on Saturday.
• James Madison took itself out of at-large consideration with a loss in the CAA semifinals.
• Creighton replaced Missouri State as the MVC representative by beating the Lady Bears. The Bluejays meet Drake on Sunday for the MVC's only bid.
• Drexel and Detroit could steal bids on Sunday. Delaware (CAA) and Green Bay (Horizon), the favorites in the those respective games, would be at-large entrants.
LAST FOUR IN
FIRST FOUR OUT
NEXT FOUR OUT
Big East (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Sun Belt (2)
Some updates after Friday's conference tournament games:
• Kansas State lost to Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals, but it doesn't affect the Wildcats' place in the field. They are No. 33 overall on the board, the first No. 9 seed.
• Iowa State, which lost to Kansas State in Thursday's Big 12 quarterfinals, remains among the last four in.
• Kansas, which lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday, remains among the next four out.
• Texas A&M's win over Oklahoma in the Big 12 semifinals leaves both teams unchanged. The Aggies are a No. 4 seed playing in College Station. The Sooners are a No. 8 seed playing in Norman.
• Southern California lost to Washington State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, which dropped the Trojans on the board and eliminates them from the field.
• Upsets in the Big West put UC Santa Barbara in as the conference representative for now.
• Bowling Green's loss in the MAC semis knocks out the Falcons. They are replaced by Eastern Michigan in the field as the No. 13 seed, still playing in Bowling Green.
LAST FOUR IN
FIRST FOUR OUT
NEXT FOUR OUT
Big East (8)
Big Ten (6)
Big 12 (6)
Atlantic 10 (3)
Sun Belt (2)
Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt)
Connecticut (Big East)
Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun)
Dayton (Atlantic 10)
McNeese State (Southland)
Purdue (Big Ten)
South Dakota State (Summit)
There are times when you just kind of wonder if the NCAA selection committee really believes the seeds it gives out. As soon as this year's bracket came out, No. 10 seed Marist versus No. 7 seed Iowa State looked like an easy upset pick lit up in neon.
If you watched these two teams leading into the NCAA tournament, you probably thought these seeds should have been reversed. And that's exactly how the game played out at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
The Red Foxes (31-2) were the team in control, and the Cyclones were the team that appeared to be trying to get the upset victory and falling short 74-64.
Marist came into NCAA play having won 26 in a row. Iowa State came in starting to leak oil after having lost to Missouri to end the regular season, struggling to beat Nebraska in the Big 12 tournament first round and then falling to Kansas State in the league quarterfinals.
Iowa State doubled up Kansas 72-36 on senior night in Ames, Iowa, on March 1. In retrospect, the Cyclones might have peaked that night as they honored the career of lone senior Kelsey Bolte, the team's leading scorer this season.
Iowa State went to the Elite Eight in 2009 and the Sweet 16 in 2010, losing to Stanford and UConn, respectively. But the loss of starting point guard Alison Lacey to graduation off last year's team left the Cyclones with a very young group that Bolte had to take care of.
She did an admirable job all the way through her final moments as a Cyclone, with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. The best news of the day for Iowa State was the performance of 6-foot-7 sophomore center Anna Prins, who had 25 points and 11 rebounds. She's one of seven underclass players who'll return for the Cyclones.
If anyone wanted to put together a real-genius coaching clinic, a great duo to invite to be the headliners would be the two who faced off in this matchup. Iowa State's Bill Fennelly and Marist's Brian Giorgis both have built programs not with top-notch, All-American recruits, but with players whom they develop to excel in their systems.
All five Marist starters scored in double figures on Saturday -- led by Kate Oliver's 16 points -- and getting outrebounded 42-27 didn't bother the Red Foxes at all. However if Marist meets No. 2 seed Duke in the second round, the Blue Devils' defense will chase in a way Iowa State really couldn't.
Still, Marist has been to the Sweet 16 before, making it that far in 2007, so Giorgis knows the way.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Quarterfinal day at the Big 12 tournament started with the road to perfection continued, and ended with the road to redemption established. In between, Texas lost the ball a lot, and Oklahoma State's Andrea Riley shot it a lot.
AP Photo/Denny MedleyOklahoma State's Andrea Riley set two Big 12 tournament marks Friday: a single-game record 43 points on a tourney-record 44 field goal attempts.
Now we get this: Nebraska, which improved to 30-0 after beating Kansas State 63-46, trying to move to its first Big 12 tournament final and Bedlam No. 3, as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State face off in the other semifinal.
The Huskers will meet Texas A&M, which forced 26 Texas turnovers in beating the Longhorns 77-64. Oklahoma State then pulled the day's upset, as the No. 7 seed Cowgirls topped No. 2 Iowa State 62-59 behind Riley's 43 points, a Big 12 tournament single-game record.
Riley took a Big 12-record 44 shots from the field -- she'd had the record previously with 42 earlier this season -- and made 16 of them. With her first basket, she became the conference's all-time leading scorer, surpassing Oklahoma's Courtney Paris.
Riley now has 2,772 career points, and said coach Kurt Budke told her if she had to shoot it 50 times on Friday, he was fine with that.
"And I got close!" Riley said, laughing. (Budke confirmed he did, indeed, tell her to basically shoot until the game ended or her arm fell off, whichever came first.)
Then the highlight of Friday at Municipal Auditorium was the last game, in which Baylor freshman Brittney Griner returned after a two-game suspension and did the same thing to No. 12 Oklahoma that she had during two regular-season meetings: made it very difficult for the Sooners to get much inside.
Griner blocked 10 shots -- she had 11 blocks in both other matchups with the Sooners -- and had 13 points and six rebounds in 40 minutes. Plus, No. 18 Baylor's "glue" player, Melissa Jones, who has been battling a stress reaction in her leg and hadn't played since Jan. 31, returned for 17 minutes of action.
It wasn't enough, though, on a night when Oklahoma had just seven turnovers, none by point guard Danielle Robinson. It was the fourth meeting between Oklahoma and Baylor in Big 12 tournament history, and the Sooners have won all four.
This one went down to the wire, 59-54, and afterward OU coach Sherri Coale said Griner coming off the suspension, "Looked exactly the same to me."
Griner said she felt with her first blocked shot, "I was back in the groove. I missed being out there with my team. It felt good to be back and playing with everybody."
But Baylor coach Kim Mulkey voiced what seemed pretty obvious to most observers, "I thought she was tentative. She probably wasn't as much of a presence in the paint as she had been."
That would be understandable with Griner facing the degree of public scrutiny she has since punching a Texas Tech player March 3.
Griner said she wasn't nervous before the game and didn't really hear the smattering of boos that came from the crowd when she was announced. However, Mulkey noticed and said, "I was disappointed. It's a teenager that made a mistake. She's good for the women's game, and she's human."
Griner did look more comfortable in the second half, saying that while she didn't think she was really holding back before that, "I knew I had to step it up. I was trying to help my team out."
Mulkey gave an impassioned and heartfelt explanation of what Griner has been going through the past nine days.
"I'm a mother, and when I go into that home and recruit a kid," Mulkey said, "and I look at her parents in the eyes and they say, 'I want that kid to play for you because you run a disciplined program' -- that came out of Brittney Griner's father's mouth.
"And he expects, when she fails, for me to discipline her and not throw her on the street. I would think if I coached your daughter, you would want that, too. Brittney Griner will learn from this. And if she doesn't, Brittney will eliminate herself."
Mulkey has spoken often about Griner's gentle demeanor, and she reiterated that in regard to how one action in the heat of battle is not at all indicative of Griner's real personality.
"She is the sweetest child in a 6-8 body," Mulkey said. "All I ask is that you judge Brittney Griner before the incident and you judge her after the incident. What made [it] so bad is it was done in a public forum. There is not a coach in America that has not had to discipline a kid for taking a swing at a teammate in private that none of you ever knew about. Not on the men's side, not on the women's side. It was, again, a horrible, horrible thing, and she hurts because of it."
But it's also over. And with Griner back in action -- still facing, however, private disciplinary measures from Mulkey to help her learn from the mistake -- there's not much else to say about it. It's time to move forward and look at Baylor's NCAA tournament chances.
Jones was not her normal self in some ways, going 1 of 7 from the field, but her mere presence made Baylor function better. Baylor also got Morghan Medlock's best game of the season; the team's lone senior had 18 points and five rebounds.
If Jones can return to full health -- or close to it -- and Griner feels comfortable asserting herself, Baylor is going to be a really tough NCAA matchup.
"I was excited to have those two back in the lineup," Medlock said, no doubt speaking for all Baylor followers, too.
But now while Baylor prepares for the NCAA tournament, Oklahoma faces its third meeting this season with in-state rival Oklahoma State. Well, actually it hasn't been that much of a rivalry: the Cowgirls have won only once in the last 22 meetings.
Oklahoma won this season's matchups 77-66 in Stillwater and 95-62 in Norman. The latter game was the regular-season finale, and the Sooners could do no wrong in that game.
The semifinal meeting will pit two of the top point guards in the women's college game, with Riley and Robinson, who had 26 points and four assists Friday.
And Nebraska -- whose only "worry" against the Wildcats was an ugly 1-for-21 struggle from behind the arc, not that it mattered -- will go against an A&M team that is looking really good in March -- much like the Aggies did two years ago when they won the Big 12 tournament here in KC.
"Well, obviously, no one would have expected us to be 30-0 -- nor did I," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "You've got to find different ways to win. This is a rarity. I might coach for another 30 years and not have this happen."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brittney Griner sat in the stands behind the Baylor bench at the Big 12 tournament and watched her teammates figure out a way to beat Colorado without her. They will not have to do the same thing Friday against Oklahoma.
Griner will be back after her two-game suspension for punching Texas Tech's Jordan Barncastle, and Baylor will be oh-so-happy to have her return to the floor.
With Griner in the lineup in February -- getting a triple-double that included 11 blocked shots -- Baylor beat Colorado by 34 points. Without Griner, No. 6 seed Baylor had to throw on a full-court press and get a very special guest-star appearance from Whitney Zachariason to beat the Buffaloes 72-65 in the first round.
Baylor trailed by eight points at halftime and was still down by that much with 13:40 left in the game. But then Baylor gained back the momentum with pressure defense, and the Buffs had no answer for Zachariason. Of course, they weren't expecting she'd be such a problem.
Zachariason's career high in points coming into Thursday's game was seven. But with the Buffs fully committed to a zone defense, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey called on the "Z" to bust it up. And she did, hitting five 3-pointers on the way to a team-high 17 points.
Asked if using Zachariason was a game-time decision, Mulkey said, "Yeah, it was sittin' on the bench and watching us miss shots from the perimeter. And I thought, 'Hell, give her a shot.'"
Baylor's comeback was the nightcap of four closely contested games in Big 12 first-round action; all were decided by single digits. The day started with a reminder of the Griner-Barncastle tussle; Barncastle was wearing a face mask to protect her broken nose. That is, until she couldn't stand it anymore.
At one point, she became so irritated with the mask that she took it off, but then later put it back on. She never seemed comfortable the whole game, and didn't score in Tech's 59-51 loss to Kansas State.
"I thought she didn't look herself today, defensively especially," Tech coach Kristy Curry said of Barncastle. "She was way too passive."
What will be interesting to see is if Griner is somewhat passive against the Sooners, or if she'll feel comfortable asserting herself. The No. 3 seed Sooners and Baylor split their meetings during the regular season, with Baylor winning 57-47 in Waco, Texas, on Jan. 13 and Oklahoma taking a 62-60 overtime win in Norman, Okla., on Feb. 10.
Griner had two of her bigger rejection games against the Sooners; in each meeting, she blocked 11 shots. She had 12 points in the victory against OU and 17 in the loss.
Friday's quarterfinal will be the fourth Big 12 tournament meeting between Oklahoma and Baylor, and the Sooners have won the previous three. Two of those were for the championship (2002, '06) and the other was in the semifinals ('07).
In those last two tourney meetings with Baylor, the Sooners were led by Courtney Paris. She remains the Big 12's leading career scorer but only for a little while longer.
In the outstanding individual performance of Thursday, Oklahoma State guard Andrea Riley had 37 points in a 76-69 victory over Kansas. Riley's total bested Paris' single-game tournament record of 36 points set in 2006. And with that performance, Riley now has 2,729 points in her career, which ties her with Paris. Riley's first basket or free throw Friday when the Cowgirls face Iowa State will give her the record.
"To us, she is the MVP of the conference," Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke said. "There is nobody more valuable to a team."
Well, Nebraska fans would disagree, as their star, Kelsey Griffin, is the Big 12 Player of the Year and has led the Huskers to a 29-0 record. Top-seeded Nebraska, which has never won the Big 12 tournament title and never reached the final, will start its quest in the day's first game against Kansas State.
The other matchup Friday will pit Texas -- which survived Missouri in Tigers coach Cindy Stein's last game, 64-59 -- against Texas A&M. The Aggies have vexed Texas coach Gail Goestenkors since she arrived in Austin for the 2007-08 season. She has lost all six meetings with Texas A&M. In fact, Texas has beaten A&M just once since 2005.
But the game of the day could well be the last one, with Baylor and Oklahoma both trying to boost their NCAA tournament seeding. Baylor got a lift from an unexpected source on Thursday. But Friday, Mulkey hopes to see everything back to normal, with Griner crowding the lane, not sitting in the crowd.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Were it some coach other than Nebraska's Connie Yori, you might just think it was sandbagging. But few folks in the business are as straightforward as she is plus what she says just makes a lot of sense.
The Huskers are undefeated and the top seed in the Big 12 tournament; they'll open play in Friday's quarterfinals. Still, Yori doesn't see Nebraska as the "favorite."
"We are not built to play three games in three days," the Big 12 coach of the year said. "Because we play full-court defense. We expend a lot of energy -- that's who we are. In order to do that for three games in a row, that's hard.
"We're not a half-court execution team. So I think it will be a huge challenge for us, because of our style, to win the Big 12 tournament."
Two games in three days -- which is the NCAA tournament setup -- is a different story. Yori is not concerned about that.
But three in three just might tax her Huskers -- including Big 12 player of the year Kelsey Griffin -- too much. This is all new ground anyway for Nebraska, which has never won a league tournament title in the Big 12 or Big Eight eras.
Further, no North Division team has won the conference tournament since Iowa State did it in 2001. This year, for the first time in Big 12 history, the top two seeds -- Nebraska and Iowa State -- are from the North Division.
Although the Huskers come in feeling fully healthy, the Cyclones don't. Senior point guard Alison Lacey is not expected to play in Iowa State's quarterfinal game Friday because she's recovering from pneumonia.
Iowa State released a statement that Lacey's status beyond the quarterfinal is uncertain, although she is expected to be ready to play in the NCAA tournament if the Cyclones get a bid (which, of course, they will).
If Lacey is absent the entire Big 12 tourney, it seems unlikely the Cyclones can really make a run at winning. Thus, if neither of the top two seeds is the so-called favorite, who is?
Well, would it be crazy to say No. 3 seed Oklahoma? Nope. Despite all the graduation and injury losses, the Sooners still tied with Iowa State for second place in the league at 11-5. (The Cyclones won the head-to-head matchup as the tiebreaker.)
How about Texas A&M, which is the No. 4 seed (the same spot from which the Aggies won this title two years ago in K.C.)? All three of Texas A&M's leading scorers, by the way, are from Kansas City (Danielle Adams, Tanisha Smith and Tyra White).
Who outside the top four seeds -- they have first-round byes -- might challenge to win the title? It would be a stretch for any of them. That would mean four games in four days. Only one team outside the top four has won the title previously, and that was Oklahoma as a No. 6 seed in 2004.
However, back then the tournament still had a rest day between the semifinals and final. Now, it no longer has that.
No. 5 seed Texas has had its ups and downs, although the Longhorns did close the regular season with a victory over Baylor. However, that came with Brittney Griner suspended for a punch thrown in Baylor's game at Texas Tech on March 3.
Speaking of Baylor, the No. 6 seed, Griner is suspended for one more game -- the opener Thursday night against No. 11 Colorado. She didn't come to Baylor's open-to-the-media practice. Asked about it after the workout, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey did not explain Griner's absence but just repeated that Griner was suspended for the first game of the tournament. Mulkey didn't seem very pleased to be talking to any of us reporters, you might say.
Being the fierce competitor she is, Mulkey seems to be taking an "us against the world" attitude. And even though Melissa Jones (injury to right lower leg) apparently is out of the Big 12 tournament, Baylor shouldn't be underestimated. This is the program that won the league tournament last season -- although the personnel is quite different.
Lastly, the only other team that merits a mention as having an outside shot at the title is No. 7 Oklahoma State. Despite its season-ending 95-62 smackdown at Oklahoma in the regular-season finale, the Cowgirls and Andrea Riley do have title-game experience. They made it to the championship game in 2008.
The Big 12 is not the only big show in women's basketball still going on. The Pac-10 tourney, in which Stanford is nearly a prohibitive favorite, will be contested through the weekend, too.
But the Big 12 should provide a bit more drama because several teams are trying to improve their NCAA tournament position. Plus, despite the Huskers' 29-0 mark, as Yori said there is still a feeling that Nebraska might have its troubles here.
Then again, so might everybody else.